Halloween Haunts: Stoker Spotlight Interview with Rocky Wood
Rocky Wood is the recipient of the Bram Stoker Award® for Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel for Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times co-written with Lisa Morton and drawn by Greg Chapman.
1. How would you describe Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times?
It’s a warning about the dangers of ignorance and intolerance. We’ve taken the historical background of the witch-hunting era and put it in context for readers. They are entertained as they learn – the get to meet some of the nasty individuals who drove this evil period in history and of course representatives of the many tens of thousands of victims. Even those who think they know what the Witch Hunts were about learn what really drove it, why it reached a peak, and why it faded quickly from history. The subject matter is perfect for the graphic novel format, as readers can see what happened, not just imagine it from dry, descriptive prose.
2. Tell us about what inspired you to write Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times.
I have always learned from history, particularly from events such as the Holocaust. It is critical that we all learn something, even if our own personal take-away, to minimize the risks of simply repeating past mistakes. The debate over Syria is a prime example—we have a murderous dictator slaughtering “his people” in ways banned from civilisation for a century—what will we do? Stand pat, as did the French in Rwanda? We have a rag-tag miscellany fighting him – from groups the West approves through proven terrorists who are our sworn enemies? Will the lack of a clean, white hat being worn by the rebels freeze our response? So, it is those moral struggles that inspired me to shine light on an episode of history that is not well understood. Facing these dilemmas, thinking about them, should help us grow as individuals and a society, no matter what conclusions we draw, or actions we take.
3. What most attracts you to writing dark fiction?
Well, of course, I mostly write non-fiction, over the last decade concentrating on the master of dark fiction, Stephen King. But I’ve now done two graphic novels of an historic bent—Horrors! Great Stories of Fear and Their Creators reimagined the lives of those who created such horror classics as Frankenstein and Dracula and presents those and other tales as part of a deliberate sequence.
Horror is the original genre—the first tales the first men told around the first camp-fires were certainly scary tales of the real and imagined dangers that surrounded them. The human condition is best exposed in great horror tales.
4. What are you writing now?
I’m updating my Stephen King work—that, of course, is a never ending task.
5. What advice would you share with new horror writers? What do you think are the biggest challenges they face?
Believe in yourself. Read, read, read—and not just in our genre. Seek people out to critique your work. Network relentlessly. Avoid crass over promotion, particularly of work that may not represent your potential. Write every day, even if only for a few stolen minutes.
As to challenges—setting up a support network; finding the right publishing path—whether it be self-pubbed or traditional – if traditional a publisher where there is mutual respect offered and earned; maintaining a professional persona – yes, be eccentric or out there, but professionalism is a hallmark of a writer with a career in front of them; truly committing to your writing—which means up giving up many distractions; establishing and maintaining your “brand’; learning every day how to become a better writer—whew!
6. Name three of your favorite horror stories.
I like the phrasing—rather than naming my three favorite I’d like to name three others that would make my favorite list. Bag of Bones is one of Stephen King’s best novels—lots of layers, genuinely frightening—an erotic ghost story in a modern setting. Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” strikes at your soul. Beowulf remains a truly great horror tale, still relevant to the human condition in the modern era, dealing as it does with family, home, the outcast and the unknown ‘other’.
Halloween is not really a big event in Australia or New Zealand. There was a brief surge of interest in things like trick or treating, probably driven by American TV or movies in the mid-1980s through the late 1990s, but it appears to have been subsided. My favorite memory is the generosity of friends and colleagues from the horror community, work and other community connections I have, in putting on a fundraising Halloween themed night for me a couple of years ago. The evening was a great success with people enjoying dressing up and getting into the Halloween spirit!
8. Given a choice, trick? Or treat?
Treat! I have a long list!
ROCKY WOOD is the Bram Stoker Award® winning author of a series of books about Stephen King, including Stephen King: A Literary Companion, Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished and Stephen King: The Non-Fiction. A freelance journalist since the 1970s, he also writes graphic novels, including his latest, Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times. He is the President of the Horror Writers Association and lives in Melbourne, Australia.